Athens entrusts students with funds to invest in their city

by Holly Hollman
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ATHENS-On Thursday, May 18, the City of Athens entrusted high school students with money to invest in their city.

Members of the Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission met at the Alabama Veterans Museum and reviewed grant proposals from local non-profits. The students in grades 10-12 debated and discussed who to fund and for how much and defended their reasons why.

Some students, such as Lindsay Lane Christian Academy junior Annelyse Dizon, said priority should be given to citizens who contribute to the tax base. She supported a request from Make A Way Foundation for a book program aimed at those with special needs.

Others, such as Athens High sophomore Emma Tarokh, said funding should go to encourage citizens and visitors to Athens to spend money and help the tax base. She supported beautification efforts downtown.

Athens High sophomore Jerome Malone Jr. argued funding should have a broader impact and support a project like the Household Hazardous Waste event hosted by Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful.

“Many were not afraid to speak up and defend their choices for funding,” Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “That’s the fun part. Seeing these students’ passion for their city.”

The group received more than $3,500 in requests and had $2,500 to distribute. Through negotiations, the students finally settled on a method to fund each request by partially funding a majority of the projects.

The entities chosen were:

Athens Arts League – $275

Athens-Limestone Beautification Board – $300

Athens-Limestone Community Association – $275

Athens-Limestone Hospital Foundation – $500

Athens-Limestone County Library Foundation – $200

Camp Hope for Hospice of Limestone County – $350

Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful – $300

Make a Way Foundation – $300

“Prior to accepting proposals, the students set priorities such as downtown enhancement, healthcare, education, community events/programs, beautification and recreation,” Youth Commission mentor Holly Hollman said. “All of the proposals met one or more of those priorities, and it was tough for the students to choose. The students want to fund projects that will have an impact on Athens, and through this process, they learned about need in the community, budgeting, sharing their opinions and compromising.”

Hollman said most of the projects include opportunities for Youth Commissioners to volunteer.

“That is an important aspect to their community grant program,” she said. “We want Youth Commissioners to not only invest funding in our community, but also their time and talents.”

Youth Commissioners utilized funds donated by Dekko Foundations, Krebs Engineering and Samurai’s Steak House for their community grant program.

Summary of funded projects

 Athens Arts League

  • Will purchase ukuleles for 10 students to learn each year how to read music and play an instrument; students will participate in classes and camps in order to perform for hundreds of attendees at downtown events such as Mardi Gras, High Cotton Arts, Merchants Alley, Christmas Parade, and other events as opportunities arise; first music camp will be held June 26-27.

 Athens-Limestone Beautification Board

  • Will expand beautification efforts with the purchase of more concrete pots and plants/flowers; with the expansion of businesses and growth of night life downtown, the group sees a need to add additional pots to enhance the aesthetic appeal of downtown to the thousands that visit/shop/dine; plants/flowers will be changed out seasonally.

Athens-Limestone Community Association

  • Will help fund a two-day unveiling and dedication ceremony at the Pincham-Lincoln Center of historical photos of the Trinity School ancestors, teachers, parents, and sites; these are newly discovered photos (over 200) from the collection of Mildred Grupe, an American Missionary Association Teacher for the third and fourth grades at Trinity (1917-1933); ceremony will allow public to view collection and learn about the school and site’s history; this site tells the story of slave to soldier to student.

 Athens-Limestone Hospital Foundation

  • Will purchase car seats for its Mother-Baby Unit; hospital will provide these to families who may not be in a financial position to purchase an infant car seat or their current car seat does not follow safety guidelines.

Athens-Limestone County Library Foundation

  • Will purchase supplies and books for the Youth Services Programming “Homeschool Hangout”; approximately 24 regular attendees for the weekly program in grades K-12 will enjoy a book, humanity-based conversations relevant to the story, creating crafts and science projects, and build with Legos.

 Hospice of Limestone County – Camp Hope

  • Will purchase material for “Feelings Pillows” for approximately 85 campers who attend Camp Hope; pillows will be used to teach coping skills for children who are experiencing grief; volunteers hand sew each pillow cover and include a note of encouragement in the pillow pocket.

 Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful

  • Will help fund the Household Hazardous Waste Collection annual event, a free service for all Limestone County residents (expect about 300 to participate); will give residents the opportunity to safely dispose of harmful chemicals and items such as paint, cleaners, pesticides, used oil, etc., keeping harmful chemicals from being put in the landfill or poured into the ground, eventually getting into the water supply.

Make A Way Foundation

  • Will fund a book drive for the Athens-Limestone Public Library to stock it with up to 50 books on a variety of special needs topics such as autism, Downs Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Dyslexia, etc.; books will provide information to parents and include self-help books for children’s/teens/adolescents.




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